One of the most important jerseys in a soccer team’s setup, the number 1 is traditionally reserved for the goalkeeper and is often the first number to appear on the team sheet.
Most soccer teams tend to have one main goalkeeper that plays in the majority of the teams’ matches, acting as a measure of stability in what can be a pretty chaotic sport.
To become one of the most famous players to have worn the number 1, a player needs to have shown amazing shot-stopping abilities as well as quality leadership skills and distribution of the ball.
Today we are going to be looking at the most famous soccer players with the number 1 jersey, both past and present. Will your favorite man between the sticks make the list?
Here are the 7 most famous soccer players with the number 1 jersey.
7. Edwin van der Sar
While Dutch legend Edwin van der Sar may never have been the greatest shot-stopper in the world, he was as reliable as it gets for a goalkeeper during the 2010s and became one of Manchester United’s key players during their imperious march to the 2008 UEFA Champions League triumph.
Van der Sar himself was one of the heroes of this final, making the crucial save in the penalty shootout to seal the Red Devil’s third European title in the Moscow rain.
Before joining United, van der Sar was a young prodigy at Amsterdam giants Ajax, his first season at the top saw him become the Netherlands’ highest-rated goalkeeper and eventually earned him a move to Juventus.
Following just two seasons in Italy, van der Sar decided it was time to move to the Premier League and joined newly promoted Fulham in 2001. It was a shock move for a player of his ability; however it turned out to be a successful one as it ended with his move to Old Trafford in 2005.
Van der Sar’s long career ended in 2011 with a UEFA Champions League final defeat to a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona, the Dutchman became the oldest player to feature in the competition’s final at over 41 years old that day.
6. Manuel Neuer
There are few players in the history of the game that can be considered true revolutionaries, one such player is Germany and Bayern Munich number 1 Manuel Neuer.
During the late 2000s and early 2010s, goalkeeping was still a very “simple” job in a soccer team, they were there to stop shots and take goal kicks (among other things). Neuer changed all this by becoming one of the world’s first ‘sweeper keepers’.
At the time this peculiar style of goalkeeping wasn’t common and was considered reckless by some that believed Neuer would make mistakes and be caught out by intelligent forwards.
This wasn’t the case however, as Neuer would go on to become one of the most decorated players of his generation. The German has won multiple UEFA Champions League titles, one World Cup and countless domestic honors in his native Germany.
5. David De Gea
This may be one of the more controversial choices in this list, however, I stand by the fact that Manchester United’s current number 1 was the best goalkeeper in the world during his prime.
Joining the Red Devils in 2011, following in the footsteps of a legend like Edwin van der Sar was never going to be easy for the youngster.
De Gea began life in England as something of a scapegoat for United’s downfall, making a number of mistakes and having to be replaced by lesser players at times.
In time, however, the Spaniard found his feet and started to shine during some of his club’s toughest times.
Another goalkeeper with a strange style, De Gea is known for his penchant for making saves with his feet rather than his hands. It may seem rather counter-intuitive, but it works for him and has established him as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation.
There have been plenty of chances for De Gea to leave Manchester over the years, Real Madrid was often thwarted in their attempts to sign him.
Despite this interest, De Gea has stayed loyal and is deserving of a special place in the annals of Manchester United’s history.
4. Gordon Banks
For most, the greatest English goalkeeper of all time. Gordon Banks wore the number 1 jersey for the Three Lions during their successful 1966 World Cup campaign and remains the only English goalkeeper to lift the trophy.
Banks played a pivotal role in England’s triumph, making a series of important saves throughout the tournament.
While winning the World Cup will always be a high point in Banks’ career, it was during England’s failed defense of the trophy that he made his greatest-ever contribution to soccer.
In a match against a Pele-led Brazil, Banks pulled off what is regarded by many as the greatest save of all time. Pele headed the ball towards Banks with such venom that it seemed almost impossible to react to, however, the Englishman did and parried the attempt away from his goal. It’s one that has to be seen to be believed.
Banks’s club career is less well-known, but he did appear for clubs such as Chesterfield, Leicester City, and Stoke City over the years. He retired in 1973 due to a car crash that caused vision damage to his right eye, a sad way to bow out for such a legendary player.
3. Gianluigi Buffon
If this were a list of my personal favorite number 1s of all time, Italian veteran Gianluigi Buffon would be at the top of it. Buffon has worn the number 1 jersey for both club and country during his lengthy career, with the most impressive thing about him being his sheer longevity at the top.
Buffon may no longer be his nation’s top shot-stopper, but he still plays for Serie A club Parma at the age of 45. Buffon began his career with his boyhood club and returned there in 2021 after successful spells with Juventus and Paris – Saint Germain.
There are few players in the history of soccer that can be considered more reliable than Buffon, he rarely makes mistakes and keeps his composure in even the most testing of moments. There are few things defenders love more than having the knowledge their goalkeeper is calm and reliable.
A traditional goalkeeper in many ways, Buffon has been hailed for his athleticism and positioning throughout his career. This may be why he continues to shine at 45.
2. Peter Schmeichel
I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to number 1s, there are few clubs who can match Manchester United’s impressive roster of top goalkeepers. The final addition to our list from the red side of Manchester is of course Danish hero Peter Schmeichel.
The imposing Dane starred for the club between 1991 and 1999, overseeing the development of his outfield teammates all the way to the iconic 1999 UEFA Champions League final that completed a famous treble-winning season.
Schmeichel later moved to Sporting Lisbon before making a return to England with Aston Villa. He subsequently made a shock move to Manchester City in 2002, playing just one season for his former rivals.
The curious thing to note about this transfer is that during the two Manchester derbies he played in for City, he didn’t lose, thus continuing a nine year streak of never losing in the battle for Manchester.
Schmeichel’s son Kasper is now one of the top goalkeepers in Europe, plying his trade for French side Nice following a Premier League title win with Leicester City in 2016.
1. Lev Yashin
Widely regarded as one the greatest goalkeeper of all time, Lev Yashin wore the number 1 jersey for the Soviet Union during some his countries best international performances.
Yashin is particularly well-known for his flat cap that he wore during many games during his career, this iconic garment is one of the reasons he is held in such high esteem.
Aside from his wardrobe choices, Yashin remains the only goalkeeper to have ever won the Ballon d’Or, receiving the honor in 1963.
The Soviet keeper was a revolutionary during his time at the top, making acrobatic saves and collecting loose balls inside his penalty area like few others ever had. It baffled and excited fans in equal measure.
Perhaps the only thing lacking in Yashin’s incredible career is some time in the top European leagues. Yashin played his entire career inside the Soviet Union, starring for Dynamo Moscow during the clubs’ imperious five-year reign in the Soviet League.